Louis Gossett Jr.(1936-2024)

Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. (May 27, 1936 – March 29, 2024) was an American actor. Born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, he made his stage debut at the age of 17. Shortly thereafter, he successfully auditioned for the Broadway play Take a Giant Step. Gossett continued acting onstage in critically acclaimed plays including A Raisin in the Sun (1959), The Blacks (1961), Tambourines to Glory (1963), and The Zulu and the Zayda (1965). In 1977, Gossett appeared in the popular miniseries Roots, for which he won Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards.

Legendary actor Lou Gossett Jr. talks ‘The Color Purple’ and filming in Georgia

Gossett continued acting in high-profile films, television, plays, and video games. In 1982, for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and became the first black actor to win in this category. At the Emmy Awards, Gossett continued to receive recognition, with nominations for The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots (1978), Palmerstown, U.S.A. (1981), Sadat (1983), A Gathering of Old Men (1987), Touched by an Angel (1997), and Watchmen (2019). He won and was nominated at other ceremonies including the Golden Globe AwardsBlack Reel Awards, and NAACP Image Awards. Gossett was also well-known for his role as Colonel Chappy Sinclair in the Iron Eagle film series (1986-1995).

Gossett’s other film appearances include Hal Ashby‘s The Landlord (1970), Paul Bogart‘s Skin Game (1971), George Cukor‘s Travels with My Aunt (1972), Stuart Rosenberg‘s The Laughing Policeman (1974), Philip Kaufman‘s The White Dawn (1974), Peter Yates‘s The Deep (1977), Wolfgang Petersen‘s Enemy Mine (1985), Christopher Cain‘s The Principal (1987), Mark Goldblatt‘s The Punisher (1989), Daniel Petrie‘s Toy Soldiers (1991), and Jasper, Texas (2003), and his television appearances include Bonanza (1971), The Jeffersons (1975), American Playhouse (1990), Stargate SG-1 (2005), Left Behind: World at War (2005), Boardwalk Empire (2013), and The Book of Negroes (2015).

Early life and education[edit]

Gossett was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, to Hellen, a nurse, and Louis Gossett Sr., a porter.[1] He was an alumnus of Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 and Abraham Lincoln High School.[2][3] He contracted polio during his youth.[4] His stage debut came at the age of 17, in a school production of You Can’t Take It with You when a sports injury resulted in the decision to take an acting class.[1][5][6][7][8][9]

Gossett’s high school teacher had encouraged him to audition for a Broadway part, resulting in his selection for a role in the Broadway version of Take a Giant Step in 1953.[10] After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1954, he attended New York University, declining an athletic scholarship.[11] Standing 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, he was offered the opportunity to play for the New York Knicks; he turned down the offer to instead accept a role in A Raisin in the Sun.[12]

From the archives: Louis Gossett Jr.

Gossett struggled with a debilitating illness during the 1990s and early 2000s, having been given a prognosis of six months to live from a doctor at one stage. In 2001, he learned much of his illness was due to toxic mould in his Malibu home.[119] On February 9, 2010, Gossett announced that he had prostate cancer. He added the disease was caught in its early stages, and he expected to make a full recovery.[120][121] In late December 2020, Gossett was hospitalized in Georgia with COVID-19.[9][122]

Gossett died at a rehabilitation center in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 2024, at the age of 87. No cause of death was given.

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